Spring is in the air and for many students, this is an exciting time of the school year! By now, not only are children comfortable with the routines of their classes, expectations from their teachers, and solidified in at least one friendship, but plans for summer are starting to take shape. Whether a child’s ultimate summer goal is to be outside and as busy as possible, or inside and binge watching their favorite shows, the finish line of the school year is almost in view.
Spring is also that dreaded time of year when states administer their version of standardized testing in public schools in order to measure growth and achievement in specific content areas. Standardized testing can be a source of worry or pressure for any child. Discussion around these tests has likely been swirling in the classroom in one way or another for a couple of months already.
Due to more recent technology in many districts, our children no longer need to spend time carefully bubbling in every letter of their first and last name with a #2 pencil like we did, but if you’re a child with a learning difference, the typical feelings of worry and pressure over standardized testing are likely amplified.
If you’re the parent of a child with an IEP it's helpful to know what your child is entitled to at both the federal and state level when taking these standardized tests. Staying informed on your rights can reduce fear of the unknown for your child and also empower them to give their best effort on test day.
As you may already know, accommodations are designed to allow students with learning differences the ability to compete at the same level as their peers on standardized tests. At the federal level, IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Act) will ensure that states are implementing the tools deemed necessary to make that happen. For districts who have moved to computer-based testing, the highlighting tools, ability to zoom in, or use of a calculator are all standard features now.
Pro Tip: Check in with your child’s teacher because many schools will take a class period to walk all students through finding and using these features before testing day.
If the IEP feels like a lengthy and dense document to you, you’re not alone! To find your student's accommodations, take a few minutes to find the section titled “State or District-Wide Assessment"on your student's IEP. This page lists the accommodations that the team agreed were necessary in order for your child to access and successfully take the standardized tests.
Friendly reminder: A student can have a classroom accommodation that seems to really support their needs on a day to day basis, but if it’s not listed on the State or District-Wide Assessment page it will not be available on the day of the test.
So what can you do to make sure your child is fully supported and ready to go on test day?
First, be proactive and take a peek at that “State or District-Wide Assessment” page. Being proactive will help to ensure that whether your child requires a familiar test administrator, scribe, or separate setting (to name a few), these logistics will be worked out ahead of time. If you have concerns - and enough time - schedule a time to meet with the IEP team to discuss your concerns and/or amend the IEP as appropriate.
Second, if it’s age appropriate, make your child aware of what his or her testing accommodations are so that they can begin to practice self-advocacy skills. If your child is still too young to have this kind of a talk, it may be best to reach out to the classroom or special education teacher to just check-in prior to testing day.
Finally, if your child is feeling nervous or concerned that they're not going to do well, let them know that the test is just one way to measure the skills they've been learning and all anyone expects is for them to do their best!